Over the last six years we have tried most of the major flatbed scanners and several drum scanners. Here are the results so far.

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Can a drum scanner really scan better than a high-end flatbed scanner?

Our initial experience with the ICG drum scanner is favorable. It is easy to use, indeed probably even I can learn to use it. So much for the myth that you have to be trained for years to use a drum scanner. That was a decade ago. Today the equipment and the software is easier to operate.

ICG drum scanner

One professional prepress shop had an Optronics. The owner reported it was so awful that they got better scans from a Umax. This experienced prepress scanner operator subsequently bought a Creo EverSmart Pro II flatbed scanner after reading the reviews by Nicholas Hellmuth. In fairness to Optronics, I presume (I hope) that most of their scanners produce better scans than a $2000 Umax PowerLook III, but at least one lemon came off their assembly line and that is not good for convincing people to buy that brand when there are other perfectly good brands to buy.

ICG drum scanner
ICG drum scanner

In the meantime Optronics as a scanner has evidently ceased to exist.

Another prepress scanner operator reported "I have operated a Howtek 2500 and Cezanne (FT-s5000) in another prepress company for two years. Cezanne is really a good high-end flatbed scanner that is 4 times faster than Howtek and much easier to use. But it is a bit incapable of capturing highlights, and produces grainy results. These two drawbacks are crucial.

This reveals that many factors are at play, both hardware, optics, and software. Of course the grainy results are due to film grain. This is not the fault of the scanner, but is part of the physics and chemistry of film, especially 35mm transparencies.

The BEST bag in the photograph is the same color as the ICG drum scanner but is not part of the system; I just happen to prefer BEST color management RIP for large format printers and happened to have a BEST bag while I was visiting Global Graphics hardware at the recent DRUPA trade show.

Since May Global Graphics no longer makes ICG drum scanners. If the ICG drum scanner surfaces under a new name and new management, we will report it.

At Photokina tradeshow in September we will also be curious to see what other drum scanner companies no longer exist. At Photokina 2000 there was a new Swiss drum scanner and several other European makes and models. Most went the way of the dinosaur. We hope ICG survives, since it was far superior to cheaper drum scanners which we tried out.

You can ask for the FLAAR report on scanners for prepress, or FLAAR report on scanners for fine art giclée.

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